Furano

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Furano.jpg
Resort Summary
Resort Name Furano
Location {{{location}}}
Resort Altitude 235 - 1,209m
Winter Season November 22 ~ May 8
Terrain Overall: 23 runs
Beginner: 40%
Intermediate: 40%
Advanced: 20%
Lift System 11
Highest Lift 1,209m
Lowest Lift 235m
Vertical 974m
Longest Run 5.5km
Avg Snowfall Over 8.5m per year
Terrain Parks Small terrain parks
Snow Sports Snow mobiling, dog sledding, hot air ballooning, ice fishing, back country skiing and snowboarding, cross country, ice skating
Facilities 30 hotels, pensions, lodges and a backpackers and ovr 200 restaurants and bars, extensive shopping
Nearest Town Furano
Lift Pass
Adult 5 Day $22,500 YEN
Adult 1 Day $4,500 YEN (cheaper when bought in an accommodation package at any local hotel/ lodge)
Child 5 Day $
Child 1 Day $


Overview 

Furano is one of Japan's top ski areas with long rolling groomers, over 8ms of the best snow in Japan, long blue sky days which lead into interesting sightseeing and apres ski activities as well as over 200 restaurants, cafes and bars.

Location

Furano is located in the very heart of Hokkaido, the exact geographical centre. It is 2.5 hours by train from Sapporo, Hokkaido's largest city. 8 buses run per day from Sapporo Station at 2,500 YEN one way. (If you have a group, purchase packs of 4 tickets at a discount but at the main stations, not on the bus). There is also a shuttle bus from Sapporo Prince Hotel which leaves around 7:45 and goes via Sapporo St., you can get a return bus plus ski pass for around 4,000 YEN for the day. It is 1 hour from Asahikawa, Hokkaido's second largest city with great shopping, sightseeing and bars, restaurants and nightlife. Furano is 50 minutes from Asahikawa airport which is the main gateway for Furano. There are 8 buses per day from this airport which stop directly in front of the terminal. 4 buses per day run from New Chitose Airport in Sapporo.

Pros

Furano is a very cool, very beautiful, very fun, small Japanese town with around 25,000 residents that also happens to have the best snow and one of the best ski areas in all of Japan.

Best snow in Japan and amongst the best in the world. Long rolling groomers. Typically overnight snow with blue sky skiing with views stretching to the 2 volcanoes in Hokkaido. 200 great restaurants, bars and cafes all over the place Interesting après ski activities; ice bar/igloo, cheese and wine factories, arts & crafts village with café at the base of the New Furano Prince Hotel, dog sledding, ice fishing, Goto Sumio Museum, and close to Tokachidake onsen and volcano. Close to Asahikawa’s sightseeing, walking penguins, shopping, sake factory and snow Crystal Museum. Free local mountain guides who can speak English and will show you around the mountain and let you know more about the town. They meet guests at the base of the two main lifts on either side of the hill each morning.

CONS The ski area is quite strong about skiing out of bounds and in the trees due to national park restrictions. No night clubs for those who want them, others consider this a plus.

Contacts

Tourism association office in the gondola building

Phone: 81.167.23.3388 (Furano Tourism Association)

Fax: 81.167.39.1222 (Furano Tourism Association)

Email: kankou@furano.ne.jp

Postal: Furano Tourism Association 076-0025 1-26 Hinode Cho, Furano Shi, Hokkaido, Japan

Planning

Getting There

Asahikawa and Asahikawa Airport: From overseas or from mainland Japan it is best to fly into Asahikawa airport. From the airport, simply walk out the sliding doors and there is a Bus Stop to Furano (Lavender Bus) with about 8 buses per day through the season. No reservations are necessary and the bus costs around 750 YEN and takes around 70 minutes. A taxi from the airport costs around 10,000 YEN and takes about 50 minutes. This bus originates in Asahikawa so can be ridden from Asahikawa station. These buses go straight to the slopes.

The train from Asahikawa Station costs about 110 yen and takes about 60 minutes. Note: Asahikawa Station is NOT near the airport. The airport is south of town (towards Biei / Furano) so it is faster to go straight from the airport by bus.

Chitose Airport: From Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport, you can take a train towards Sapporo which will go onto Asahikawa. Get off at Takikawa and the local train to Furano will depart 15 minutes to 25 minutes after the arrival of the express train from the airport. This local train will take an hour to get to downtown Furano. There is also a Ski Express Train which goes directly from the Airport to Furano Station. From there you can take a local bus or taxi to your final destination. The ski area is about 2km from the station.

Numerous buses leave each day. These need to be booked in advance by an agent or contact information can be found at http://www.furanotourism.com. These nonstop buses take around 3 hours and cost around 2,500 YEN. Buses are often more convenient than the train and just as fast.

From Sapporo: You can catch a train to Takikawa and change here for the local train. Express trains are available some mornings with returning trains in the afternoon. There is a discount 4-pack of tickets called "S-Kippu 4". These are valid for 3 months and can be used either way. If you have 2 or 4 people this can be cheaper than the bus.

There are also 8 local buses each day from Sapporo Station which cost 2,500 YEN one way but have 4 ticket books available at a discount. These have to be purchased at the ticket windows in Furano or Sapporo.

There is also a day tripper ski bus from Sapporo which is great for those living or traveling through Sapporo. You can catch the return bus and ski in Furano for around 4,000 YEN for the day. The bus departs Sapporo Prince at around 7:45am and goes via Sapporo Station.

Accommodation

On Mountain

New Furano Prince Hotel; close to 4.5 star with great facilities and ski in ski out to 3 lifts. Swimming pool, sauna and Japanese bathing available, ski school, 5 restaurants, arts & crafts sightseeing area, great bar on the top floor, 3 cafes. Also, regular shuttle and local buses down town and to the Kitanomine side. Furano Prince Hotel; locate on the Kitanomine side of the hill. Slightly older and more 'classic' than the New Prince, but ski in ski out and comfortable and close to restaurants and shops.

Off Mountain
Gondola base, with view of Kitanomine and Furano

The Kitanomine side provides 30 different options, from Japanese-style lodges to Western-style B&Bs, hotels and a backpackers. Phytoncide is the highest level accommodation available. Suzuran, North Country, Bell Hills, Naturawald, Crayon House, Lavender, O Share Na Mori are all very comfortable as well as others not mentioned here. Furusato so, and Chiba so are the best for anyone wishing to experience Japanese hospitality and style. Note most Japanese-style lodges (ryokan) do not have ensuite bath/toilet.

Self-contained accommodation is relatively new to Furano. Fresh Powder Apartments (skifront, luxury), North Hills Sasaki (rental house), Four Seasons (budget cottage), Snow Flake Factory (bottom floor can be rented as 2 BR condo) are a few options.

Lift Tickets

You can buy lift tickets with your ski packages from your agent in your home country. This would probably be the most efficient. Tickets can be bought from most hotels if they are a member of the hotel association and the tourism association. This is generally cheaper. There are also ticket windows at the base on both sides.

Ski School

Ski school located on both sides of the hill. Both sides have English speakers and can cater to all levels and all ages.

Equipment Hire

Extensive hire at the base of the Gondola and the Ropeway (Cable car). Also good equoiment in the New Furano Prince Hotel. New for 2007-2008 is hire of K2 Fat Skis and Burton Snowboards at the North Country Inn.

Resort Facilities

Getting Around

Downhill self service restaurant at the top of the ropeway

Local buses and shuttle buses are the best way to get around. Things are located close together, even downtown in only a 20 minute walk away so walking is not a bad way to see the place. Taxis are fairly cheap as everything is located so close.

Parking

Parking located at the base of both sides of the hill for free.

Activities

Snow mobiling, dog sledding, tubing, snow rafting and banana boating, ice fishing, hot springs, back country tours, horse riding, hot air ballooning, ice skating, walking with penguins, snow domes and igloo bar. Furano's location allows guests to access Kamui and Tomamu Ski Resorts very easily. Local operators such as the North Country Inn offer tours to these resorts to help guests complete their experience in Central Hokkaido and Furano.

Dining, Bars & Entertainment

Over 200 restaurants, cafes and bars. Locals eat at the same places which means the food is very good and very affordable. Huge variety of food and dining with some very high class restaurants downtown, at the New Furano Prince Hotel and in Kitanomine.

A lot of 'cool' Japanese bars and little places tucked away. Ask a local or at the information centres for advice and find one of the great little places where you can have a fun night in a Japanese style place but also communicate and enjoy the experiences. Top Of Furano bar in the New Prince has great views and drinks, as does Soh's Bar. Dowtown go to Bocco, Wonder, Kitsuzuki, Karaoke Lavender. In Kitanomine go to the brewery called Dokusan.

Most of the bars have a "charm charge" (aka cover charge) if not eating. Staff mostly do not speak English (except for a few words) but most have an English version of the menu you can choose from and point to.

If you attempt to speak Japanese most are appreciative and will help you out where possible.

There is a bus that runs from the Kitanomine area to downtown Furano. Most of the restaurants/bars are located in the Heso Koji area.

Kitanomine area

Sanjin

Sanjin

Hot Pot (Nabe), Chinese and Japanese restaurant. Nice and friendly little restaurant less than 5 minutes walk from the base of the gondola. There is a menu available in English. There is a bar to sit at or individual rooms upstairs and downstairs. The mixed Tempura is excellent.

Bakushu

Kitchen Cafe and pizza. Menu is available in English and the staff are friendly. Has an interesting Japanese take on western dishes. Located just over 5 minutes walk from the gondola.

Rag Doll Kitchen House

Italian restaurant. Very nice with a great view of the ski hill. About 10 minutes walk from the gondola and on the road to the North Country Inn. Across the road from the community centre. Look for the red building. Menu is a mix of English and Japanese with photos.

Downtown

Robata

The entrance to Robata
The staff and locals at Robata

Robata (look for the Red Lantern) is a traditional bar/restaurant in the Heso Koji Bar District (Downtown Furano not far from the train station). It's a little hard to find as it is in one of the little alleys in that area. Robata is a favourite of the locals and is very friendly, it will help if you can speak some Japanese. The food is great and the atmosphere is hard to beat.

The Bridge Bar

The Bridge bar is a fairly new American style bar with a pool table. One of the owners also has an English language school and some of the students frequent the bar which is good as you can help them with their English and they can help you with your Japanese. Located about 5 minutes walk from the Heso Koji district and about 25-30 minutes walk from the base of the gondola. The Bridge bar is non smoking so if you feel the need to escape the smoke on your night out this is a good place to go.

Haruchan Sushi

Sushi restaurant located downtown. Menu is available in English. Seating is at a bar, or in individual rooms. About 25-30 minutes walk from the base of the gondola.

Teppanyaki Masaya

Fluffy Japanese style potato pancake from Masaya in Furano

Masaya is an excellent Teppanyaki restaurant located on the edge of the Heso Koji district. The owner/chef Masaya is very friendly and speaks excellent English. There is seating at a bar in front of the grill as well as tables in an open area. Upstairs there is a section for families with small children.

Dream House Kingyo

Rocket night at Dream House Kingyo

Kingyo is a karaoke bar located down town. They occasionally have band nights (eg Rocket night). The staff are friendly and there is an English drinks menu. If you feel like singing there are 45 pages of English songs to choose from.

Shopping

Electrical, general, grocery, and everything else available just 1km from the ski area. Great presents or souvenirs available at Ningle Terrace below the New Prince.

Children

Creche facilities and ski school available. Kids can easily enjoy all the extra activities available in Furano.

Laundromat

The coin laundry
There is a coin laundry in the Kitanomine area across the road from the Downhill Royce shop. The building is painted bright yellow so you can't miss it. Store up your 100 yen coins before visiting. The washers take about 30 minutes, the dryers run for 15 minutes per coin, the middle dryer works best (at this time). Soap powder is available (currently 40 yen so you'll need 10 yen coins as well). There are no irons - be aware that your accommodation probably won't have one either. There are a couple of vending machines outside, but you are probably better off wandering down to the 7-11 or to the Royce shop for a snack.

Onsens

The Furano area is home to a number of Onsens.

La Terre

Located in Naka Furano La Terre is an up market onsen. The cost is 980 yen (as of March 2008) and includes the cost of towels. There is a free shuttle bus from some of the accommodation in Furano. You can book at your hotel front desk, or if you are having problems ask for help at the Furano International Tourism information centre at the base of the Gondola. You need to book by 2 pm and the bus leaves around 4 pm (depending on your hotel location) it leaves La Terre on the return journey at 6:30 pm.

It is split into male and female sections and these rotate from time to time. Look at the colour of the fabric around the door as you enter in case it has changed from your last visit.

There are a number of different pools with a range of temperatures. There are also spas, cold plunge pools and a sauna. Most of the pools are indoors with one larger pool outside. Indoors off to one side is a secluded pool with a theme. One is lit as though you are under the stars, complete with satellites and comets travelling overhead, the other is done as though you are in a cave.

Highland Furano Hot Spring

Highland is located about 15 minutes from Furano and can be reached by taxi or bus.

Hakuginso

The road to Tokachi-dake

Hakuginso is located in the Tokachi-dake hot springs area. It is about a 50 minute bus trip from Furano. Trips can be booked through the Furano information centre. Note that it requires a minimum of 4 people and cost 3,150 yen (as of March 2008). The bus leaves Furano around 3 pm and leaves Hakuginso at about 6 pm. There are also public transport options, but this will take up a significant portion of your day.

There is an indoor and outdoor section. The indoor sections are split between male and females, the outdoor sections are split into male, female and mixed. The mixed bathing area requires the use of bathing suits. In the split areas bathing suits are not allowed. The male outdoor area has three pools, ranging from warmish (the largest pool at the far end - the temperature varies from one end of this pool to the other) to medium (most people only stay in for a few minutes) to boil your skin off which is the smallest pool closest to the doorway. Inside is a couple of smaller pools, a plunge pool, spa and sauna. The female outdoor area (from what I have been told) has four pools, with the fourth one being in between the warm and medium temperatures.

The mixed area has two pools of different temperatures and appears to be rarely used.

Soap is provided, but if you need shampoo, bring your own. You will also need to bring towels (one large, one modesty towel - roughly hand towel size).

Ryounaku onsen

Ryounaku is the highest onsen in the Tokachi-dake area. To get to it requires catching the bus to Hakuginso then transferring to another bus. This needs to be arranged in advance.

It is an outdoor onsen with spectacular views.

Fukiage wild onsen

Fukiage is located not far from Hakuginso. If you let the driver know beforehand he will stop and let you out at the trailhead, from where you can walk to Fukiage. Note that this is regarded as the hottest onsen in the area. As it is wild you can wear bathing suits if you wish.

Ride Guide

Kitanomine side

Furano ski area is split into two parts, the Kitanomine side (right hand side when looking at the hill) and the Furano side (left hand side when looking up the hill). They are interconnected by a couple of runs and lifts, although be aware the link back from Furano to Kitanomine is fairly flat, followed by a fairly steep bit.

Runs are graded into green (easy), Red (medium),and Black (hard). Ungroomed bump areas are marked.

The Kitanomine side faces east and has a shorter season than the Furano side.

Beginner Areas

Great beginner areas available on both sides of the ski area with fairly long runs and easy to ride lifts.

Groomed Runs

Some of the best groomed skiing in all of Japan. Perfect long rolling groomers with amazing views.

Off Piste

Furano out of bounds warning sign

As the resort only leases the runs, off piste skiing is not allowed. Be aware if you ski in one of these areas and have an accident you will be liable for all costs involved. Your insurance would probably not cover it as well so it could get very expensive.

Out of Bounds

It is not possible to access the surrounding out of bounds terrain from Furano due to national park restrictions. Guests can get a police permit from downtown Furano, and communicate with the Furano Ski Patrol to head out of bounds towards the Nishidake area, extreme left looking at the ski area. This pass must be attained on the day of use and hence is difficult with the police station not willing to issue it before business hours.

Cross Country

A number of cross country ski areas and courses avaiable from both sides of the ski area. Some of the best cross country is outside of the main resort area, especially in the Rokugo area.

Parks & Pipes

Furano does host a number of snowboard and ski events and hence has a few kickers built each year, usually just in front of the Kitanomine gondola. A pipe is built for the Snowboard World Cup but is usually not cut and completed for regular guests to ride through most of the season.

Bumps

Furano has some insanely good bump skiing as the runs are steeper than most of the other resorts in Hokkaido and the snow retains its quality over long periods due to its dryness and the low temperatures. Regular snow can completely cover the bumps on numerous mornings each week, hence making on course powder skiing rather than bumps skiing a typical morning’s activity. The lack of huge numbers also means the bumps to not get formed so quickly.

Powder Zones

There are two major ungroomed runs: Kuma-Otoshi (top of Kitanomine side) and Challenge (towards the middle of the mountain, on the Furano side.) Both are long black runs. Note that Kuma-Otoshi is usually only opened for a short period each day depending on snow conditions.

The Panorama Run (top of the Furano side) offers a long steep ungroomed section on the outside of the turn.

Furikozawa (middle of the Kitanomine size) is a short 300 m ungroomed bowl that gets moguled very quickly. Very steep.

Starting in 2006, the Sailer course (Furano Zone side) has sometimes been operated with mid-day grooming. After a big snowfall, this wide intermediate run offers deep powder from 8:30 am - 12:00 pm, and freshly-pressed courdoroy runs from 1:00 pm onwards.

There are also a lot of smaller areas on course that are not groomed, particularly at junctions where major runs come together.

Please note that skiing outside of the designated course is highly discouraged by the ski patrol, and they do have the right to revoke lift tickets based on intentionally skiing in prohibited areas.

Sheltered Runs

The mountain has two areas or sides. This allows guests to get into better weather or get away from the wind. There is a great gondola on the Kitanomine side and a 101 person Cable Car on the Furano side which allows guests to be warm and sheltered on the lifts. Skiing between the two sides on the link course keeps skiers sheltered from winds, although Furano does not receive high winds very regularly.

Snowplay

There was a town meeting about this a few years ago and after much deliberation, it was decided that, to some local citizens dismay, guests would be allowed to play with the snow.

Other

Weather

Furano is located in the centre of Hokkaido and hence provides more Utah or Colorado like snow and weather and snow conditions than some of the other mountains in Hokkaido. The temperature can go above 30ºc degrees in the summer and as low as -25 in the winter although recently winters generally hover around -10 degrees, providing the perfect snow and weather conditions which Furano is famous for. The snow is extremely dry and it makes skiing a pleasure as you don’t feel too cold and never wet. The constant and stable snow conditions make grooming the runs a pleasure and means Furano has some of the best groomed courses in Japan.

Geography

PLEASE EDIT

History

Furano is one of the most famous ski areas in all of Japan. it is a steep hill and has hence been able to hold the FIS ski world cup 10 times and is now a regular host of the FIS snowboard world cup.

Furano is famous in Japan for hosting a number of TV dramas, one of which, From the Northern Country, ran for 18 years. A dad got divorced in Tokyo and moved to Furano with his two kids and they built their own house. It burnt down and they built another one and lived amongst the flower fields and nature and in this small rural community. Well that sums up an 18 year drama in 1 paragraph.

Also, the town is famous for its flower fields and lavender. One of the flower farms which produced perfume was featured in a Japanese Rail poster and suddenly the place started booming. People with farms starting selling ice cream and other foods became popular. So this brings up to now. Farms are the most popular things, although this is mainly a rural farming community.

Resources

Maps

Town map and district maps are available from the Furano Tourism Association website Be careful, though, there is no convention that North is to the top of the page. To orientate yourself, the Kitanomine side of the ski hill faces roughly east.

Paper maps are available from most accommodation or from the Furano Tourism Association offices. They are available in both English (Blue) and Japanese (Yellow), it is a good idea to get both as when asking for directions the locals sometimes have trouble orientating themselves with the English map. A common point of reference is the JR train station. Note also that in a few cases places mentioned on the Japanese map do not match up to the English map, I assume this is because the details changed between the two print runs.

Be aware that some of the smaller lane ways are not marked on the map and it can at times be difficult to locate exactly where a place is. Directions will typically be given using prominent businesses/locations rather than street names.

There is also available a Dining and Entertainment guide which includes a copy of the town map.

Trail/course map (in Japanese) is at [1] An English version of this is available as a pdf from [2]